If you have won the Africa Cup of Nations, single-handedly qualified your nation to maiden World Cup finals, made the English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A grade, then you must have the sterner stuff that stars are made of.
In his eventful career at the turn of the century, former Bafana Bafana star Philemeon ‘Chippa’ Masinga achieved all that with aplomb. Now retired, Masinga has, according to KickOff magazine edition of a few years ago, fallen on hard times.
Asked about his struggles, Masinga’s reply was philosophical: “Show me any successful man who has never seen failure.”
Chippa’s words sound true with Zambia, who on Tuesday became the only third Africa Cup of Nations holders to exit the group stages. How time changes!
When Zambia rose above adversity on that extended night of Gabon, Southern Africa, Malawi football too celebrated. A bold statement went out that Southern Africa is not all about hunger, disease and poverty.
Now inevitably, heavy feelings are sweeping across the Cosafa block in the aftermath of Zambia’s fall from Africa football grace. Luck, form and time could explain Chipolopolo’s crumble.
In football, players go through circles, including a second peak that precedes the trip down the retirement zone.
Peter Mponda was the first to announce his retirement after 2010 Angola Nations Cup. Form and circumstances forced out other Flames key players such as Allan Kamanga, Hellings Mwakasungula, Elvis Kafoteka, Swadick Sanudi, Esau Kanyenda and Russel Mwafulirwa.
In 2012, Zambia veterans Joseph Musonda, James Chamanga, Chris Katongo, Kennedy Mweene, Collins Mbesuma and Isaac Chansa too clicked at the right time.
Going to the 2013 Nations Cup, save for Mweene, Katongo and the rest of the Zambia squad of 2012 simply did not show up, hence Zambia returned from South Africa winless.
Similarly, the Flames failed to win in eight qualifying games of the 2012 Nations Cup.
Then there is an element of luck. Malawi earned ‘lucky’2010 Nations Cup qualification with just a win and a draw. Zambia, too, excelled in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea last year in circumstances that pointed to luck.
The motivation to honour fallen heroes of the plane crash added a new dimension to Zambia’s performance. But in South Africa, lightening refused to strike twice on the same place.
You can take comfort in that FAZ will, unlike FAM, not waste time before making a paradigm shift going into the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. For those casting stones on Zambia, just show me a successful team that has never seen failure.